It’s been a scant four years since the release of The Lone Bellow’s maiden album, and in that short space of time, the group have found themselves elevated to the top rungs of the Americana elite, thanks to glowing critical notices and an Americana Music Awards nomination. Nevertheless, the band hasn’t seemed to be able to keep the momentum going. After all, it’s been three years since their sophomore effort, Then Came the Morning, time that’s been split between making the rounds of the late night TV show circuit and relocating from Brooklyn to Nashville.
Still, if judged by the lyrics of the somewhat ominously dubbed Walk Into a Storm, there may be other, less obvious reasons for the delay. “I break my back to make a name,” Zach Williams wails on leadoff track and first single “Deeper in the Water,” casting a somewhat dire veil over the proceedings overall. A combination of tangled rhythms and a sinewy tone suggests there’s a decided uncertainty clouding their entire outlook. Indeed, the darkness doesn’t let up. The track that follows, “Is It Ever Gonna Be Easy,” casts further doubts, and while the song is ostensively about an elusive affair, it only affirms the downcast feelings by pessimistic titles like “Come Break My Heart Again,” “Can’t Be Happy For Long” and “Long Way To Go.”
Still, it takes a closer listen to get the full weight of these revelations. With Dave Cobb behind the boards, there’s no lack of sonic drama, and even in the most sorrowful circumstance, the material is delivered in full flight. Upbeat energy overshadows tenuous balladry, with songs such as “Feather,” “Time’s Always Leaving” and the aforementioned “Come Break My Heart Again” finding a determination that mutes the hints of hopelessness and despair. Granted, the longing is still there, but the band’s ability to keep their focus and soar on the strength of their combined vocals—with Karene Pipkin’s upper register filling the gaps behind Williams’ lead on several of these songs—gives the material an emotional urgency.
Despite any air of uncertainty, The Lone Bellow appear in a good position to regain their footing and revive the kudos that accompanied their earlier efforts. Faith and confidence go hand in hand, so even if Walk Into A Storm reflects a cautionary stance, it’s likely that another triumph is well within their reach.